To My Brother, Tyrone Crawford

Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

That first weekend we met was so crazy.

This was before Dallas. Before we became Cowboys. Boise, 2011.

I don’t expect you to remember it as well as I do — you were the big man on campus, and I was just some lowly junior college recruit on a visit — but I remember it all like it was yesterday. I showed up decked out in my juco team’s purple tracksuit. All purple, from head to toe. Just nothin’ but purple. Purple on purple. And, yeah, it seems hilarious to me now, and I know you guys clowned me for it — roll up lookin’ like I was Prince or Barney or something — but back then? What did I know?  

When I met all the guys on the team, I remember how everyone was pretty much the same to me — a quick “What’s up, bro,” maybe a fist bump here and there for the purple kid, and then … keep it moving.

You though? You were different.

You stopped to talk to me, to get to know me a little bit. You were genuine and kind. You’d just met me, but you already cared about me. You valued me as a person. When we got to talking, you even went so far as to ask me for some tips, to pick my brain about getting to the quarterback.

“You got a move I should try in tomorrow’s game? Something that’ll get me a sack?”

At first, I thought you were joking. But you were looking at me like: What you got for me, bro? So I took it real serious, like the ultimate compliment. I thought for a few seconds, and then came out with it. 

“With your body type and size, I’d go with a rip, at first, and then if the tackle sits down on you, transition to an arm-over and swim out of it to the QB.”

I hoped I hadn’t said the wrong thing, but it was tough to tell. You just nodded and gave me this look like, We’ll see.

Then, less than 24 hours later, I’m in the stadium watching you do my move against Wyoming, and you actually get a sack using it … and I remember just absolutely going nuts in that moment. It was like, Man, that guy really trusted me. He took my advice! But also like: HOLY CRAP, MY MOVE WORKED!!!!!!!!!! 

It felt amazing. But what happened next was actually the best part.

I’m not sure if you even remember this, but after you came off the field and went over to the bench you immediately looked up into the stands. You looked all around and … you found me!

Then you ran over and told me thank you.

Like, are you kidding me? You actually did that. And man, I gotta say….

That’s a heck of a start to a friendship right there. I still get goosebumps thinking about it. 

DeMarcus Lawrence | Dallas Cowboys | The Players' Tribune
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

Actually, I shouldn’t even say friendship. Because what we have? That’s not a friendship, bro. It’s a brotherhood, a straight up brotherhood. And I just really wanted to write this letter to say thank you for everything, and to let the entire world know how much you’ve meant to me over the years.

Since that weekend in Boise, you’ve repaid my pass-rushing advice a million times over, and I couldn’t be more appreciative.

Even me just ending up in Dallas, being blessed to be able to play for the greatest franchise in all of sports … you actually even had a hand in that. My second year at Boise State, you and your wife showed up to our game against Southern Mississippi and watched me ball out. After the game, you gave me that look again. And then, out of nowhere, you said it….

“I’m gonna get you on the Cowboys.”

Just like before, I thought you were teasing. I still had another year of eligibility left. I hadn’t said anything to anyone about going to the NFL. To me it was just like, “Alright, man … bet.” And then I pretty much forgot about it.

But maaaaan, you weren’t lyin’.

After Dallas drafted me a few months later, I found out that you’d been in the background that whole time, whispering to all the Cowboys coaches about me. You told them that I was a beast. You wouldn’t let up. And — you being the person that you are — they believed you and trusted your gut, and then traded up to bring me into the ultimate football family.

There are honestly no words that can express how grateful I am for that. I mean, if it wasn’t for you, I truly believe that I wouldn’t be a Cowboy.

And if you’re an NFL player and you’re not a Dallas Cowboy, like … what’s the point, right?

“I’m gonna get you on the Cowboys.”

Tyrone Crawford

In Dallas, from Day One, you were my big bro.

You taught me what the league is all about. On the practice field, you were a constant source of pointers, and off it, you helped guide me. When I lost my way, you were right there to pick me up, dust me off, show me some love and get me back on the right track. You had my back unconditionally at a time when I needed that more than you will ever know.

Not everyone makes a smooth transition to the NFL. Not everyone has it together all the time. And I’ll be the first to admit that I had some hard times transitioning from a college student into a grown man playing in the NFL. Looking back on it now, early on, I was still kind of trying to live that same college lifestyle at times. I wanted to party and be a young kid, and I didn’t pay enough attention to taking care of my business. I wasn’t responsible enough, and I wasn’t very good at handling adversity. For a stretch there at the beginning of my career, I was just kind of drifting. And I was unhappy. I wasn’t showing people what I could really do, and who I could be. 

But you changed all that.

I’ve never really told you this before, but, Tyrone, thanks to your advice and guidance … you helped me not jump off the proverbial bridge that most NFL players fall off when they don’t take their profession seriously. You saved me. With your support and constant encouragement, you got me back on track.

I still remember that day at practice when you walked over and put it to me straight.

“De, what’s up with you? Why aren’t you like you used to be at Boise? What’s going on?”

I didn’t really have a good answer. So you took matters into your own hands.

“From now on,” you told me, “I’m gonna ride with you. We’re gonna do whatever we gotta do to get you back to being your normal self. End of story.”

Starting the very next day, and continuing for a bunch of months, you’d be calling to wake me up every morning. Then we’d get on our bikes and go on those long rides to go train together. You showed me the light, and everything changed after that. With you by my side, I was able to really shine, and that season I ended up with 14½ sacks.

But it wasn’t even about that. It was so much deeper, so much more than football. Point blank: You saved me, my dawg.

You truly saved me.

DeMarcus Lawrence | Dallas Cowboys | The Players' Tribune
Aaron M. Sprecher via AP

Now, I’m not going to lie. Your retirement? You not being around like you’ve always been? For me? It’s gonna be rough. It hurts.

A lot.

Because up to this point, I always knew that, no matter what, you would be right there beside me, guiding me — leading by example, showing me what it means to be a good man, and the importance of standing by your word, of carrying yourself with dignity, of being a leader in the community, of treating people right, and on and on. You were just … that guy.

You are that guy. My road dog. My sensei.

And I mean, you want to talk about Hot Boyz … Tyrone, you’re the O.G. of that crew. You set the example. You’re everything we all talk about when it comes to being a Hot Boy — a leader on and off the field. You’re the purest Hot Boy there is.

“I’m gonna ride with you. We’re gonna do whatever we gotta do to get you back to being your normal self. End of story.”

Tyrone Crawford

It’s definitely going to be tough to look around and not see you there anymore.

But at the same time, I couldn’t be happier for you. Your wife and those two beautiful young girls of yours deserve all of you. The energy and devotion you gave on the field was unmatched by anyone, and I know that all that energy is now going to be focused on your girls. It will bring a ton of joy to their lives.

That’s so wonderful. For all of you. You all deserve the utmost happiness!

You’re a truly great man, a follower of Christ and a beloved father, son, friend, leader, soldier, protector, football player, and most of all … a brother. And not just to me, but to many! That’s what makes you one of a kind.

I will always cherish the moments that we shared together. At the end of the day, you made DeMarcus Lawrence’s pro career. Not many people realize that, but you did. I’m not exaggerating when I say that. And you helped mold me into the person I am today. You lifted me up when I needed it, and you showed me the way. You set the right example, big bro. And, going forward, I promise to do the same for others, and to lead the way you taught me to. It’s the least I can do as a tribute to you. 

Now, before I start crying up in here, go live your life without fear or resentment, knowing that your legacy will live on with all of us who you’ve helped along the way.

I love you, and I’ve got your back for as long as we live.

T&D forever.